Herat, the second largest city in Afghanistan, has so much to offer visitors. One of the oldest cities in Afghanistan, and also the world. It has been constantly inhabited since at least the 5 th century BC. Full of culture and history, unique architecture and traditions, Herat is an interesting place to visit. It also doesn’t really feel like the rest of Afghanistan, due to its proximity to Iran and the fact that it was only incorporated into Afghanistan in 1863!
Herat was once famous for its wine (sorry, but not anymore) and saw some of the great empires of the world rise and fall. Located in the far western part of the Afghanistan, Herat easily has enough to fill at least two full days of sightseeing and here are the top 5 things you should see when you visit.
1. Herat Citadel
The Herat Citadel is an ancient fortress located on a hill in the centre of the city. The citadel dates back to the 6th century and offers visitors a glimpse into the city's rich history. Visitors can explore the citadel's towers, walls, and gates, as well as enjoy panoramic views of the city from the top of the hill.
The Herat Citadel also contains the Herat Museum which is a must-see for visitors interested in the history and culture of Afghanistan. The museum houses a collection of artifacts from the region, including ceramics, textiles, and sculptures. Visitors can also learn about the history of Herat and the surrounding region through the museum's exhibits.
2. Jihad Museum
The Jihad Museum was built in 2010 and celebrates the victory of the Mujahadeen over the Soviet Union in the Soviet-Afghan War which lasted from 1979 until 1989. Containing weapons (both those used by the mujahadeen and those destroyed and captured from the Soviet forces), murals, displays and even a North Korea style panorama, the Jihad museum is definitely one of the most unique museums in the world.
3. The Friday Mosque
The Friday Mosque, also known as the Masjid-i Jami, is a beautiful example of Islamic architecture. The current mosque was built in the 13th century, however the first mosque on this site was built in the 7 th century. Before the 7 th century this site was home to a Zoroastrian fire temple which was destroyed during the invasion of Islam.
The mosque is adorned with intricate tilework and calligraphy. Visitors can also explore the mosque's courtyard, which is surrounded by a series of arches and domes. Like Herat itself, the mosque has had its fair share of visitors from Mongol invaders to the Turks, Timurids, Mughals and Safavids.
4. Herat Bazaar
Of course, there are bazaars in every city and the concept of shopping isn’t unique to Herat, but the bazaars of Herat are a great place to explore the local culture and shop for traditional Afghan handicrafts. Much more relaxed than Kabul or Mazar i Sharif, Herat is probably the best place in Afghanistan to interact with locals and get a genuine feel for what people are thinking.
Visitors can find a wide variety of goods in the bazaars, including textiles, jewellery, and pottery. The bazaars are also a great place to sample traditional Afghan food, as well as Iranian cuisine, and meet local people.
5. Shrine at Gazur Gah
The Shrine at Gazur Gah holds profound religious and cultural significance. This sacred site is dedicated to a revered Sufi saint, Khwaja Abdullah Ansari, known for his spiritual wisdom and teachings. The shrine's architecture is a stunning blend of traditional Islamic design, featuring intricate tile work, domes, and a serene courtyard.
Pilgrims and visitors flock to Gazur Gah to pay their respects, seek blessings, and immerse themselves in the spiritual ambiance. The shrine serves as a testament to the enduring devotion of Afghan people to their Sufi heritage and is a place of solace and reflection in a region marked by historical and contemporary challenges.
6. Musallah Minarets of Herat
The Musallah Minarets of Herat, Afghanistan, stand as iconic symbols of Islamic architectural splendour and historical significance. These four minarets, built during the 15th century by the Ghurid dynasty, rise gracefully to heights of around 55 meters, gracing the city's skyline with their intricate geometric designs and turquoise-tiled exteriors. There once were 20 minarets, but centuries of war and natural disasters have meant there are only 4 remaining. 4 minarets were destroyed in the 20 th century.
These minarets, renowned for their innovative design, incorporate a distinctive double-spiral staircase that winds its way up the towers. They once served as both lookout points and calling towers for the muezzins to announce the call to prayer. Despite enduring centuries of turmoil and conflict, those minarets that do still remain, are still in surprisingly good condition.
If this has you yearning to go to Herat, why not contact us to join one of our group tours, or if you prefer going at your own pace, let us organise you an independent trip to Afghanistan so you can see not only these sights but everything Herat has to offer.